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Sgt Abu’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Saturday, 25 July, 2020 Filed in: TGIF
Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay
It was 30 years ago today/ Imam Abu taught his band of jihadis to play a coup mas — The BC
NOT TO MAKE too much of a song and dance about it but, it was 30 years ago today, from Friday-to-Friday — the best way of measuring anything, in the opinion of this column — that the good imam got up from his prayer mat and rose up against the state.
Thirty firetrucking years!
I’ve had sex with women that age.
Thirty years ago, today, I was in the Hall of Justice, at what was then the Bar Association’s end-of-law-term wine & cheese party, sipping rosé with lawyer friends I’d abandoned a couple of years before when I entered the newspaper world. (I went from the prestigious private legal bar to the far less exalted but much more enjoyable Pancho’s bar on Queen Street, itself a step up from the first media watering-hole I knew, the rumshop across Charlotte Street from the Express, which, because of its patrons’ penchant for hand-to-hand combat, gloried in the nickname of “Vietnam”.)
The Hall of Justice was one of the three worst places I could have been on the day. Only police headquarters on Sackville Street, which was on fire, and the Rituals coffeeshop across the road from the Trinidad & Tobago Television station, which was under fire, were comparable for personal danger.
But does it make a difference where any of us stand in Trinidad?
A group of us — all the rest of whom are judges now, if memory serves, though mine is more likely to double-fault — ran up to the fourth-floor library of the Court of Appeal (the same place those friends now work) to peep from a balcony at the Red House, cater-corner from the Hall.
A Muslimeen “soldier” shot at us.
I think you can still see the bullet holes in the wall.
Question: how much has changed in 30 years?
Answer: something between “nothing” and “not a lot”, unless you count water under the bridge/billions squandered by Budgets.
Thirty years after the shooting stopped, we still don’t know for sure how many people died.
And, 20 years before the Muslimeen’s bloody little masquerade, a full half-century ago, this year — and I’m very glad to still be having sex with a woman of that age — Trinidad had another little social shake-up, a little thing we called either “the Black Power Riots” or “the February Revolution” according to our perspective/politics/privilege.
How much did things change after Black Power/February Revo and before coup?
How much longer have they stayed the same?
My erstwhile editor and still friend, Sunity Maharaj — see her in Trini to the Bone, soon — recently redrew the straight line underlining the unfinished revolution she sees marked out by clear mileposts connecting: the 1791 Haitian Revolution; the 1876 Labour Riots; the Canboulay & Hosay Riots of the 1880s; the 1903 Water Riots; the 1919/20 Dock Workers’ Strike; the 1937 Labour Riots; and the 1970 Black Power Revolution.
I admire Sunity’s analysis.
But every road traffic accident will generate eyewitnesses for both plaintiff and defendant.
And the unfinished revolution is not the straight, connected line I see. (Though, of course, my line and Sunity’s are not necessarily parallel.)
My line starts, not with Sunity’s native hero, Baucunar of the Carinepagoto, who repelled Spain’s first attempt to land in 1531, but with those native Trinidadians who chose not to fight the conquistadores, but to paddle up the Orinoco.
It leads directly to the 18th Century denizens of Port of Spain who were so indifferent to themselves that, when the new governor arrived, they had to pool their wardrobes to come up with a complete suit for one man to greet him on the dock.
My line read the Riot Act to all of Sunity’s rioters before opening fire.
It always had one foot somewhere else — the UK or the US, Brooklyn or Bayswater, Toronto or Trump-land — but it moved either into the Red House or to Miami in 1970.
And, after 1990, it cocked both feet up in its penthouse hammock and looked across the Caribbean Sea to run its money mills remotely.
My line knows we’ve always needed a Picton a Trump or a Duerte.
Sunity connects Baucunar to Black Lives Matter.
I connect Baucunar to bacchanal.
If, in Trinidad, we have an unfinished, ongoing revolution, we have an even longer uninterrupted and continuing repression.
And, too often, the indifferent men in the suits who hold all the trumps operate, not from a penthouse in Panama, but the Red House in Port of Spain.
Which, of course, would add the 1990 attempted coup to Sunity’s list.
BC Pires is introducing to you/ the act we’ve known for all these years.